Duikers

duiker

There are two species of this antelope found locally, the black fronted duiker and the yellow backed duiker, though the latter is reported to be extinct in the Virungas since the mid 1990s.

They prefer dense forest at all altitudes. They share part of their range with the bushbuck, they often graze together, but duikers are the only species to be found on Mt. Muhavura’s summit (4,127m/1,3500ft).

They live in monogamous pairs in small territories jointly marked and defended against intruders. They are mostly solitary travellers, although some pairs can be seen. High up they avoid rugged terrain and steep slopes, while lower down they avoid areas of human disturbance and are least found near park boundaries (though they like human trails).

They have a high degree of habitat specialisation. What matters is the abundance of food, not the species. In terms of impact they spread fruit seeds but eat young shoots. When together, the duiker’s keener senses help the bushbuck graze longer. They are prey to larger carnivores and humans, and snaring is a major problem. Duikers have always been important nutritionally and economically throughout Africa.

Illustration: Martin Aijuka Depories

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